Latest News, Morgantown Council

Morgantown looks to bond facility work, urged to appeal police review board ruling

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday signaling its intent to issue up $7 million in bonds to finance improvements to the city’s aging, and aged, facilities.

The reimbursement resolution would allow the city to use future bond proceeds to recoup any project expenditures made prior to the issuance of the bonds by the Morgantown Building Commission.

For example, council’s Dec. 7 purchase of a new elevator and supporting equipment ($336,780) for the city’s Public Safety Building will potentially be reimbursed by the bond sale, which aims to finance improvements to facilities including city hall, the public safety building, the Norwood fire station and the city’s public works garage.

Attorney Ryan Simonton said the city’s council anticipates the bond sale will occur in March.

In the event bonds are never issued, any expenditures will have to be carried by the city’s budget.

Either way, City Manager Kim Haws said, the public safety building elevator must be addressed sooner rather than later.

“This is one of those projects that needs to be done regardless of whether bonds are sold or not,” he said.

Council will ultimately have to approve a bond ordinance spelling out the details of the issuance before the Building Commission can move forward.

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, members of the Morgantown/Kingwood branch of the NAACP expressed their displeasure with Monongalia County Circuit Judge Susan Tucker’s recent ruling to invalidate a city ordinance establishing the Morgantown Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board. 

Tucker came down on the side of the Mon-Preston Fraternal Order of Police, which filed suit against the city following the ordinance’s May 18 adoption, claiming it violated state civil service law.

Robert Cohen said he would like to see the city appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. 

In the meantime, Cohen explained, only two of the ten powers and duties granted to the board by the ordinance would have anything to do with addressing civilian complaints about police misconduct, meaning the ordinance’s severability clause could allow the other portions to move forward.

A severability clause basically states that if some portion of the legislation is found to be illegal, the remainder could potentially still be enforced.

Council also heard from NAACP Chapter President Anitra Hamilton, who said the civilian review board is too important to give up on.

“We feel wholeheartedly that this review board is needed. We know that in today’s culture, not just in Morgantown, but nationally, there is a distrust to the methods and procedures of policing, many of which are proven to be justified,” Hamilton said.

She also backed Cohen’s assertion that the FOP’s lawsuit only targeted a small percentage of what the review board intended to accomplish, “Which would not only be a benefit to the people of Morgantown, but, we feel, is ultimately necessary because it gives a voice to the voiceless of the citizens of this city.”

TWEET @DominionPostWV